Acuña in 'great spirits,' eyes full recovery

July 11th, 2021

MIAMI -- The Braves placed All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. on the 60-day injured list with a torn ACL in his right knee and recalled Johan Camargo from Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday.

An MRI following Saturday’s game revealed a complete tear of the ACL. Acuña suffered the injury in the bottom of the fifth inning of the Braves’ 5-4 win. The right fielder was chasing down a fly ball hit by the Marlins' Jazz Chisholm Jr., who ended up with an inside-the-park home run on the play. After a long run, Acuña leapt to attempt to make the catch, but the ball was just out of reach, and Acuña landed awkwardly on his right leg.

“I was feeling kind of sad,” Chisholm said. “Before the game, we were talking about who was going to hit a home run today. For it to come at that expense, it kind of sucks for me and him in a way, because the way that I got my home run is because he got hurt."

Chisholm wore yellow batting gloves to honor Acuña in Sunday's finale.

Acuña, who undergo season-ending surgery, was headed to his third All-Star Game on Tuesday after leading the National League in votes. San Diego's third baseman Manny Machado will replace him on the All-Star roster.

Acuña hit .283 for the Braves this season with a team-leading 24 home runs and a Major League-leading 72 runs scored. He also drove in 52 runs.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he got the bad news from a phone call Saturday night.

“It was what we didn’t want to hear,” Snitker said. “We were hoping it would be the best; it’s not. Obviously, he’s got to have surgery and they’re getting all that squared away.”

Snitker said he didn’t get much sleep last night: “I slept like a baby. I woke up every few hours and cried.”

The Braves add Acuña to the list of standouts they have lost at different points during the first half of the season. Marcell Ozuna, Mike Soroka and Travis d’Arnaud remain sidelined with various injuries.

“It’s just another punch in the gut we’ve got to endure,” Snitker said.

But the Braves skipper remains confident and looks forward to Acuña’s full recovery.

“He’s a young, strong guy,” Snitker said. “He’ll recover great and continue a Hall of Fame career when he’s done.”

Braves Hall of Famer Chipper Jones suffered a similar injury at the beginning of his career and made a full recovery.

“I’ve had players that have had these [injuries] and they tell me that when they come back, they feel like somebody could drive a truck over them and they’d be good,” Snitker said. “Ronald is young, strong, takes good care of himself. I expect him to recover and be just as strong as he ever was. I think the good news is, and as we relayed to him, guys like Chipper and a lot of guys that have had this, it’s just a bump in the road.”

Snitker said he spoke with Acuña around midnight on Saturday.

“He was in great spirits. His take on this was very realistic. He asked all the right questions, I thought. He handled it extremely well in a tough, tough situation -- better than I would have anticipated, quite honestly.”

The Braves must now move forward and continue to chase the division title in the National League East.

“We’re going to continue to play, the same as when we lost Marcell, and the same when we lost Travis. We’ve been through this before,” Snitker said. “This isn’t new to this group of guys.”

But he admits that it’s easier said than done: “You’re not going to replace him. This guy is arguably the best player in the game right now. So it’s going to be hard to replace him. Somebody is going to get an opportunity, whether it’s in this clubhouse or somewhere else, who knows. But that’s what you do in our business. You keep going, you keep playing.”

Whether or not the Braves make a deal to bring in another quality outfielder remains to be seen as the July 30 Trade Deadline approaches. Snitker said he is confident that Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos will make the right move.

“Alex is always trying to make this club better,” Snitker said. “He’s tirelessly working to help this club out. So I have complete faith in him. Whatever he decides to do, we’re going to roll with it.”

Camargo will get another shot at the big leagues this season. The 27-year-old joins the team for his sixth stint of 2021. He was last up from May 28-June 3 and is hitless in 15 at-bats for the Braves.

At Triple-A Gwinnett, Camargo is batting .305 with a .901 OPS and seven homers. The versatile Camargo has played first base, third base and right field for the Stripers this season.